21 May 2011

La Palette

Kimchi: spicy fermented cabbage

Everybody in Korea eats it. I've asked almost all my students, "What's your favorite food?" Roughly 80% of them say, "Kimchi." As all expats know, western style bakeries and restaurants have flooded Korea with breads and pastries in the past decade or so. Carb-loaded, flour-based breads are certainly not traditional here, but I gotta say, it makes living in Korea that much more comfortable.

It's not really a bakery, but enter stage left independently-owned La Palette Cupcake and Coffee, located in Jangsan. I went in there late one night and got a café latte (my go-to drink of choice when I'm too scared to try any heavily syruped options on the menu). I was in a hurry and didn't have time to sit down, but the first thing that caught my eye when I walked in was their pastry case, full of yummy-looking frosted cupcakes. They had a wide variety of flavors available, including red velvet, coffee, berry, chocolate, and more. The next few things that caught my eye were their modern lighting, high ceilings, and friendly employees. I promised myself I would come back and try a cupcake.

Second floor

I did go back a few weeks later. Again, the Koreanized western ambiance delighted me. Like a kid in a candy store, I gladly tried to order a red velvet cupcake, but the cashier informed me they ran out of red velvet earlier that day and only had the cupcakes that were left in the pastry case. Unfortunately, there were only about three in the case. I ordered the banana cinnamon nut cupcake and an americano (always a mistake in Korea). I sat upstairs on the second floor and indulged. The cupcake tasted like banana bread and wasn't too overwhelming with banananess, but the icing was very, very sweet.. too sweet. My americano was, as always in Korea, way too light for my taste, but I had it coming since I already knew ordering that was a mistake.

Americano and banana nut cupcake

Although the taste of my order was a little less than really satisfying, the ambiance and friendly owners were worth the trip. Would I go back? Probably, but I'd try something different. Their menu consists of the typical coffee drinks (i.e., espresso, americano, caramel macchiato, mocha, etc.) as well as full-leaf teas. However, the menu is all in Hangul, so not knowing Korean can be a disadvantage. The ever-smiling owners do speak some English, and pointing and grunting toward the pastry case always works.

How to get there! Jangsan subway line 2, exit 10 - at the top of the stairs, make a 180 degree turn and go straight across the street. Starbucks is on that corner, and La Palette is straight, a couple doors down from Starbucks (there's a sign that reads 'Cupcake and Coffee' sticking out from the building).

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